Voyage to Virginia: Keeping a Journal
Students will describe the 1606 voyage to Virginia, including some
of the challenges faced on the voyage and the colonists’ first
impressions of Virginia when they first arrived.
Standards of Learning:
Virginia SOL: VS1g, i, j; VS2a, b, c; VS3b, c; USI 4a, b; 5a
National Standards of History: Historical Analysis and
Interpretation; Historical Comprehension
Materials Needed for Activity:
Classroom map of the world
Classroom map of Virginia
Selected Quotes from Gabriel Archer and George Percy
Video: Discovering Jamestown: Voyage to Virginia
(Windows Media Player required. Click here to download plug-in.)
Other Helpful Resources:
See the Cultures at Jamestown background essays under Curriculum
joint-stock company – a business venture in which shares were sold
to investors such as merchants, lords, gentlemen and ordinary
citizens who helped pay the company’s expenses and shared in any
profits which might occur
Virginia Company – the joint-stock trading company that was formed
in London to pay for the exploration of Virginia
charter – a government document outlining conditions under which a
colony could be formed and which defines rights and privileges of
those receiving the charter, such as the one King James I issued
to the Virginia Company in 1606
colony – a group of people who form a settlement in a new place
and which is under the control of the parent country or governing
body within the parent country
On April 10, 1606, King James I granted a charter to the Virginia
Company, a joint-stock company, to establish a settlement in
Virginia. At this time, Virginia was defined as the land between
present-day Maine and North Carolina. The charter and its
accompanying documents provided a detailed explanation of how
settlement should be undertaken.
On Saturday, December 20, 1606, three small ships –Susan Constant,
Discovery and Godspeed – set sail down the Thames River from
London. From the beginning, the voyage to Virginia would prove to
be long and difficult. Fierce storms held the ships in the English
Channel for over six weeks before they were finally able to
depart. The ships sailed south along the coasts of Spain and
Portugal, along the coast of Africa toward the Canary Islands.
There they caught the Canary Current, which carried them west
across the Atlantic Ocean. The long, southerly route to Virginia
was selected to take advantage of prevailing winds, arriving in
the West Indies in late March. From there, they sailed north.
Captain Christopher Newport, commander of the expedition, took the
ships through the Caribbean, stopping at several islands to
restock supplies for the last leg of their journey.
Living conditions on the ships were cramped and tedious as the
ships carried livestock and a full cargo. In addition, the
settlers were from a variety of backgrounds including both
gentlemen and laborers, which caused tension. They spent a good
deal of their time battling sea-sickness, as well as boredom.
Finally, on April 26, 1607, they entered the Chesapeake Bay where
a scouting party went ashore to explore. Their first greeting in
this new land was an unexpected attack by a small band of Indians
which resulted in wounds to two of the men. That same night,
Captain Christopher Newport opened the box containing the sealed
orders from the Virginia Company and read the instructions, as
well as the names of the men who would serve on the governing
council in Virginia.
The colonists first landed at a point of land at the mouth of the
Chesapeake Bay they named Cape Henry in honor of the eldest son of
King James. Here they planted a cross claiming the land for
England and establishing Protestantism in the New World. Sailing
westward across the lower Bay, they stopped at a place they later
called Point Comfort where they met and feasted with the
Kecoughtan Indians. From here they sailed up a river they named
the “James” in honor of their King. The colonists had been
instructed to locate their settlement inland on a river that bent
to the northwest. In addition, they wanted to find a site which
would enable them to defend themselves from Indian attacks. The
location selected for the Jamestown settlement seemed to fit both
of these criteria, having the added bonus of having a channel deep
enough to anchor their ships by tying them to the trees on shore.
Step 1: Using a classroom map of the World, review with students
the area defined as Virginia according to the charter granted to
the Virginia Company – from present day Maine to North Carolina.
Have the students locate the following places: England, Atlantic
Ocean, Spain, Portugal, Canary Islands, West Indies, Chesapeake
Bay, Virginia, and approximate locations of Cape Henry, Point
Comfort or Hampton and Jamestown. You may wish to use a larger
scale classroom map of Virginia for the latter locations. Discuss
with students why the colonists chose to take the longer southerly
route to Virginia. Ask why the colonists decided to continue
sailing after landing at Cape Henry and Point Comfort.
Step 2: Remind students that one way we learn about the past is
through descriptions by people who lived in a particular time.
Gabriel Archer and George Percy are two men who wrote accounts of
what they saw and experienced at Jamestown. Distribute copies of
Selected Quotes from Gabriel Archer and George Percy. Have
students work in pairs and discuss the quotes. Have them record
any words or phrases which they find difficult to understand.
Discuss the meaning of these words today, and use them as examples
of the way languages change over time. What did they learn about
Jamestown from reading the quotes? Was there a difference in the
two perspectives of Archer and Percy? Why are these writings so
valuable to us today?
Step 3: Ask students to imagine that they are one of the colonists
to land at Jamestown in 1607. Tell the students they will view a
video about the voyage and will then make journal entries
describing their impressions of the journey and their arrival in
Virginia, including why the leaders chose this site.
Step 4: View the video, Discovering Jamestown: Voyage to Virginia. Have students make their journal entries. Instruct them
to base their entries on what they have learned from Archer’s and
Percy’s writings and what they saw and heard in the video.
Summary Activity: Once they have completed their entries, have
students share them with the class. What was similar about the
entries? What was different? Ask students why they think there are
differences? Focus on the different perspectives that individuals
bring to their experiences. Remind students that accounts from
people of the past also bring different perspectives to history.
Selected Quotes from Gabriel Archer and George Percy
Selection from George Percy’s Discourse of the Plantation of the
Southern Colony in Virginia, by the English in 1608.
The river which we have discovered is one of the famousest rivers
that ever was found by any Christian. It ebbs and flows a hundred
and threescore miles, where ships of great burden may harbor in
safety. Wheresoever we landed upon this river we saw the goodliest
woods as beech, oak, cedar, cypress, walnuts, sassafras and vines
in great abundance which hang in great clusters on many trees, and
other trees unknown, and all the grounds bespread with many sweet
and delicate flowers of divers colors and kinds. There are also
many fruits as strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, and fruits
unknown. There are many branches of this river, which run flowing
through the woods with great plenty of fish of all kinds; as for
sturgeon, all the world cannot be compared to it.
Selection from Gabriel Archer’s writings - an excerpt The River
The main river abounds with sturgeon very large and excellent
good, having also at the mouth of every brook and in every creek
both store and exceeding good fish of divers kinds; and in the
large sounds near the sea are multitudes of fish, banks of
oysters, and many great crabs rather better in taste than ours,
one able to suffice four men. And within sight of land into the
sea we expect at time of year to have a good fishing for
cod……..This land lieth low at the mouth of the river and is sandy
ground, all over beset with fair pine trees. But a little up the
river it is reasonable high. And the further we go, till we come
to the overfall, it still riseth increasing. It is generally
replenish’d with wood of all kinds and that the fairest, yea, and
best that ever any of us…. ever saw, being fit for any use
whatsoever, as ships, houses, planks, pales, boards, masts,
wainscot, clapboard – for pikes or elsewhat.
The “Discovering Jamestown” electronic classroom was made possible
by Dominion & Dominion Foundation and John and Dorothy Estes.
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